Who's a Museum Curator/Museologist?
Museum curators perform a very important role in our understanding of the past, the present and the future of humanity. Their role goes way beyond just helping visitors understand the exhibits and the stories behind them. They are essentially in charge of the museum. This includes the entire process of maintaining a museum – right from setting up the exhibits to ensuring a wholesome visitor experience. Part of their role could also involve arranging for special exhibitions coinciding with any special event.
In smaller organisations, a curator may have sole responsibility for acquisitions and even for collections care. A curator makes decisions regarding what objects to select, oversees their potential and documentation, conducts research based on the collection and its history, provides proper packaging of art for transportation, and shares research with the public and community through exhibitions and publications. In very small, volunteer-based museums, such as those of local historical societies, a curator may be the only paid staff member.
In larger institutions, the curator’s primary function is that of a subject specialist, with the expectation that he or she will conduct original research on objects and guide the organisation in its collecting. Such institutions can have multiple curators, each assigned to a specific collecting area (e.g., curator of ancient art, curator of prints and drawings, etc.) and often operate under the direction of a head curator.
The museum curators have to perform a number of different tasks to make sure that the museum functions smoothly. You have to pick the area you wish to master and then pursue museology accordingly. Without a curator, museums would have a very tough time catering to the public on a regular basis.
What will you do?
Acquiring, storing and exhibiting museum collections.
The curator is responsible for deciding which art, science or historical objects and collections will be brought to the museum. You also have to make sure that these original and exclusive artefacts are stored properly and are well taken care of. After all, they are pieces of our history, aren’t they?
Designing and selecting the themes for the exhibits.
Choosing the designs and themes of exhibits and setting up exhibit materials accordingly. You also plan out the dates of temporary and permanent exhibits. For example, imagine you have managed to acquire a rare, ancient relic for two weeks. Now you have to plan an entire exclusive exhibition around it and make sure that people who are interested can come to see it.
Designing and preparing lectures, tours, and workshops for visitors.
As a museum curator, it is your job to educate visitors as much as possible about your exhibits and their history. You essentially have to help them enjoy the collection and exhibits. You can also do that by giving lectures or arranging for industry experts to brief them.
Arranging for the restoration and conservation of rare objects at the museum.
You also have to make sure that all the acquisitions are documented accurately, and complete indexes and records are maintained.
Overseeing background research and promotional content for websites and publication.
You would need to oversee background research and promotional content for websites and internal as well as external publications. You have to make sure that the information conveyed to the public is accurate. For this, you need to check and double-check the research of the exhibits done by your employees. You will also be responsible for any promotional content that goes out either online or offline regarding the museum or any of its exhibits.
Negotiating terms when you get valuable artefacts to your museum on loan. These negotiation skills also come in handy when you are asking for funding for different museum projects!
Budget forecasting, planning, and reporting.
As a museum curator, you have to handle the museum finances, usually in tandem with the finance team. This will involve creating budget forecasts, planning, and reporting.
Introducing relevant technology for enhanced visitor experience.
Making the best use of technology for efficiency and better visitor experience. For example, if you can work on an interactive display exhibit with your team, it makes for a more memorable experience for visitors.
Coordinating and negotiate with clients or patrons.
For example, a client could be a wealthy philanthropist who agrees to purchase an expensive relic and leaves it for public display at your museum. This way, you only bear the maintenance cost, making it a beneficial deal for both, the client and the museum
Conducting special research projects in collaboration with experts.
Planning and conducting special research projects with experts. For example, your museum has acquired an artefact about which not much is known. You could get in touch with researchers and other experts in the field and figure out a mutually beneficial arrangement.
Undertaking supervisory responsibilities.
Supervising curatorial, technical and assisting staff matters. This could include many things like training, recruitment, management and more.
Coordinating and collaborating with other departments.
You might have to work with teams in charge of marketing, fundraising, conservation, and other departments within the museum.
Collaborating and networking with different categories of people.
At different points of time, you might have to work with different voluntary groups and agencies. This may include the local community, schools, grant agencies, trustees, governors, political groups, etc.
Where will you work?
Much of the work for a Museum Curator is at the Museum itself. Even in pandemic times, though the museums are closed to the public, their work goes on behind closed doors. There could be some work-related travel from time to time, for a variety of reasons. You could travel to acquire artefacts and collections, or for client meetings and other such reasons. Most of the travel is usually short-term. Museum curators usually work fixed hours from Monday to Friday. However, extra hours are put in when special exhibitions and events approach. On occasion, you might even have to work on weekends. Many museums also offer part-time opportunities. Museum curators have a more or less fixed schedule unless the situation demands otherwise. However, they have to make sure they plan the schedules of museum employees accurately. Museums are usually busier over weekends, which is when most employees would be required to work their shifts. All this needs to be planned properly to avoid issues.
Colleges and Universities
At a later stage in your career, you could also take up teaching opportunities at colleges or universities.
How do you get there?
What skills would you need?
You need to perform research on the eggs, sperms and embryos you obtain from the patient. This will involve some long hours of research.build this skill
A logical mind can reason well, and reasoning before reaching any conclusions is very important in any scientific field. You must, therefore, have a scientific bent of mind along with an interest in life sciences.build this skill
Communication and interpersonal skills are very important while dealing with patients. You will have to guide certain people about a procedure or treatment. You may need to provide them with some serious information about their fertility and treatment progress. Hence these issues would need to be handled sensitively.build this skill
As a marketer, you need to get people hooked on your brand. This requires you to come up with fun, entertaining, and exceptional ways to engage your audience. There is a lot of competition in the market, and the only way to be on top is by constantly doing something new and innovative.build this skill
How do you make it to the top ranks?
Pursuing your career locally VS abroad
India being a culturally rich country, has many important museums such as the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya at Mumbai, The National Museum at Delhi, among others dedicated to the preservation, research and exhibition of our cultural artefacts. Many of the large, national museums have many positions for Curators, Deputy Curators, Assistant Curators etc. You can pursue courses in Museology from institutions such as the National Museum Institute of History of Art, Conservation and Museology, Maharaja Sayajirao University (MSU) of Baroda, Calcutta University, and others. Fees are quite affordable ranging from around Rs.5000 for a PG in Museology from Calcutta University, to around Rs. 25000 for a Master of Visual Arts (MVA) in Museology from MSU.
Countries such as France, UK, and the USA boast many world-renowned museums including the Louvre, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The British Museum among others, which have fascinating collections from various continents. Getting into one of them would be an opportunity of a lifetime. Universities of San Francisco, Harvard, George Washington University among others are the top universities in the USA for a course in Museology. The Total Cost for a Graduate Program in Museum Studies at Harvard is around $30,000 (INR approx. 22 lakhs). University of Leicester, UK has courses in Museum Studies ranging from £15,810 (INR 16 lakhs) for a PG Diploma to £19,760 (INR 20 lakhs) for MA, MSc.
How much would you get paid?
Experience and qualifications are the two most important factors that decide your income in this field. As an undergraduate intern, you can earn close to INR 60,000 p.a. while an experienced curator can earn over INR 6 LPA.
What are your career options?
Museum Director is one of the top positions in a Museum, especially a large one. The Museum Director takes leadership of the entire museum with responsibility for – Direct policymaking, planning, staffing, and operations. He/she would work closely with the Governing Body to refine and develop the strategic direction. They would also lead and participate in all fundraising and development activities, including grant writing and developing relationships with foundations, corporations, and individual donors. The Museum Director serves as the spokesperson and chief advocate for the Museum. You may need additional training in understanding the business aspects of running a museum.
Archivists acquire, manage and maintain documents and other materials that are of historical and cultural importance to individuals, organisations and nations. As an archivist, a large part of your work will be related to preserving information and making it accessible, often in digital format. Archives may include valuable historical books, papers, maps and plans, as well as photographs, prints, films, tapes, videos and computer-generated records. Persons who are interested in these archives include researchers, academics, and the general public.
Anthropologist and Archeologist
Anthropologists and archaeologists study the origin, development, and behaviour of humans. As an archaeologist, you’ll record, interpret and preserve archaeological remains for future generations. You may be involved directly in carrying out excavations or work in related settings, such as – museums or heritage centres, universities and research organisations.
Historians conduct research and analysis for governments, businesses, individuals, nonprofits, historical associations, and other organisations. They use a variety of sources in their work, including government and institutional records, newspapers, photographs, interviews, films, and unpublished manuscripts, such as personal diaries, letters, and other primary source documents. Once their research is complete, they present their findings through articles, books, reports, exhibits, websites, and educational programs. The work may involve some travel in order to carry out your research. Although most historian positions require a master’s degree, some research positions require a doctoral degree.
Many curators teach at local schools, publish research, and review academic articles for publication during their work as Curators. Those who are interested in the research and educational arena, can continue this involvement in education by joining a University in the Arts, History, Anthropology, or Museology departments, where their knowledge and experience can be used in conducting research in new aspects, and educating and guiding students in this field.
Conservators are specialists in the care and preservation of artefacts. They know how to prevent deterioration and to give a new lease of life to the old artefacts. Depending on which area of conservation you’re working in, you may be involved in treating objects directly to prevent deterioration, stabilise the object and undertake restoration. Alternatively, you might focus on monitoring and controlling the environment in which collections are stored or displayed to prevent deterioration. Conservators work in museums and galleries, historic properties, or archives and libraries. You can also work in the private sector for conservation practice.